“Draw a monster. Why is it a monster?” – Janice Lee, Daughter
MONSTER ACADEMY: Free Mental Health School for Montreal Youth is a social justice-oriented workshop series designed to provide accessible, anti-oppressive mental health skills training to youth aged 16-25. It is also intended to open a restorative dialogue around the silencing and stigmatization of “being crazy” in the broader Montreal community. MONSTER ACADEMY is based upon the principles of empowerment, harm reduction, respect for self and others, interdependence, mindfulness, and community serving community.
Youth of all backgrounds are currently represented among the highest statistics for a wide array of mental health challenges: self-harm and suicidality, body dysphoria, anxiety and depression, mood-related struggles, and violence. At the same time, social factors such as bullying, poverty, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and intimate abuse – in tandem with stigmatization of mental “illness’’ itself – create a hostile social climate that isolates and disempowers youth. As youth, community organizers, and mental health workers, we believe that the existing health and education institutions available to most youth are not sufficient to address the psychological and spiritual needs of young people today.
Mental illness – or “dysregulation’’or “dysfunction’’ or “disorder’’ – regardless of the term used, the problem has run rampant, silently, across communities, frequently carrying with it a connotation of hopelessness and shame. Youth experiencing psychosis or depression, struggling with body dysphoria, or living with post-traumatic stress disorder too often face these battles alone. Monster Academy’s mandate is to affirm the beauty and strength of young people’s resilience in a world that makes mental health all but impossible while demonizing those it deems “crazy’’ or “monstrous’’. Our goal is to provide the skills, tools, and support necessary for youth to resist harmful social messaging, resolve intra- and interpersonal conflict, and revive each other’s capacities to heal and grow through community.
MONSTER ACADEMY is a free 8-workshop (over 8 weeks) course for youth aged 16-25. Each workshop will contain a practical component of self-care and mental health intervention skills (mindfulness, navigating the medical system, active listening, suicide intervention, etc) as well as a guided discussion on a mental health-related topic (brain science, demystifying diagnoses, media and mental health, body image and gender, etc). Participants will engage in discussion, make art, learn group animation skills, and develop their own philosophy of mental health. Support will be given after the course for youth interested in developing their own community projects. Meals and any necessary childcare will be provided.
MONSTER ACADEMY is intended to provide participants with
- Basic psychological and medical information on mental health issues common among urban youth
- Knowledge of local mental health related resources and services
- A variety of empowering perspectives on mental health, illness, and relationships
- Critical analysis of media portrayals of mental health/illness
- The skills and practice necessary to make informed choices about mental health care and support peers in seeking mental health services
- Connections with other youth interested in the above
- Valuable leadership skills applicable to numerous employment and volunteer settings
MONSTER ACADEMY is NOT
- Therapy (group, individual, or otherwise! Some of our workshops will cover finding a therapist that’s right for you)
- Training to be a professional counselor or therapist (although it’s a good start to exploring related career/education paths!)
- A substitute for accessing primary medical care